Portofino: the Dolphins Home
Portofino meaning: The ancient Roman historian, Pliny the Elder, called Portofino «Portus Delphini», a Latin denomination that comes from the fact that the surrounding sea was frequented by a lot of Dolphins. To navigate is necessary for many people, for others it is a pastime. There are those who work on the sea, those who idle, the poor and rich of the sea, those who earn millions and others who spend millions. Immense noisy ports are necessary for the former while small quiet inlets are sufficient for the latter. Without a doubt, the Portofino in Italy is one of the most famous refugees in Europe and one of the most adapted to shelter sporting boats. There is not one Italian, English, French, Belgian or Dutch yacht that has not anchored here at least once. The delightful bay of Portofino reflects the perennial green of the pines that stretch out their airy branches over its deep blue waters and it is ringed by steep lush green hills, serenely profiled against the sky. Castles, villas, large and small, and cottages that can only be approached by steep foot-paths perch on hillocks or lie halfway up from the coastline: they are half concealed by vine and olive leaves and rest in blissful contemplation of the small underlying port and distant sea.
Along the edges of the bay are mirrored the pale pink fishermen’s houses which are topped by roof terraces covered with flowering geraniums. These houses border a square which declines into the waters of the port; here the fishermen haul up their « gozzi » (a special type of double-prowed boat used in the Mediterranean) and small boats as if on the shore of a beach. Under the pointed arches of the arcades around the square the greengrocers, the tobacconist, barber, carpenter, and fancy goods merchants await within dark shops to sell their commerce; the many boutiques display the latest splendid models in fashion; the restaurants have their tables set outside and attract passing gourmets coming from the entire globe.
The screaming half-dressed children play on the cobblestoned square and the women, sitting beside stalls laden with lace goods, seem to make the pillow lace spools dance between their fingers. The dream of Portofino is an oasis of peace situated in a spot of incomparable natural beauty where the houses and man’s belongings feign apparent poverty to please the rich dilettanti of the sea. These amateurs, too, in their enjoyment do everything possible to humiliate themselves: they go barefoot, many bare their chests and wear sailor type trousers or else sit at the restaurants in their shirt sleeves. In this way one can see kings, princes, princesses, famous actors and actresses, artists from all parts of the world, politicians, etc. pass through Portofino. “There is not one Italian or foreign tourist who does not visit Portofino at least once in his lifetime”, Salvator Gotta. In the first picture, Jessica dreams from the Saint George Church.
Where in Portofino
Aperitivo: Winterose at the end of Calata Marconi (left dock). Around 10 euro.
Art Gallery: Lorenzo Cascio on the right of the Piazzetta. Really amazing!
Best Hotel in Portofino: We wrote a dedicated guide here!
Eating Out: Da U Batti, behind the Piazzetta. Around 100 euro. Secret Scampi Recipe.
Beach: Cannone Bay, just a couple of minutes before Portofino.
Inspirations: Lighthouse of Portofino and the little wall above the yacht club in the walk to St. George.
Best Moment: From 8 pm during the season. Soo romantic!
Love Declaration: Terrace on the right of the St. George Church, Castle Brown and little pier on Molo Umberto I.
Magic: If you have time, walk to Portofino during Christmas, it’s really magical. Embrace each other and let go!
Dolphins: 150 meters from the coast between Lighthouse and San Fruttuoso and in front of the Cervara Abbey. Best moment from October to March.
Whales: 500 meters from the coast between our lighthouse and Nervi (GE). Best moment from November to March.
Ducks: In the season you can find them inside the little bay of the «Piazzetta».
Barracuda: Between the little bay of Cala dell’Oro and San Fruttuoso.
Wedding: Possible with a little patience to the Church of San Giorgio. Access needs to be discussed in Townhall.
Best picture: Go to Castle Brown. There is a deck with stunning views. Even San Giorgio Church deserves.
Mothers and children: The access to the village and its surroundings is easy with prams. No problem. There isn’t nursery in the city.
Keeping fit: Jogging along with the state Portofino to Santa Margherita Ligure (about 3.3 kilometers).
Dine in the Evening: In season, Ladies are dressed in an elegant evening gown.
Parking: Required for cars inside the silos. Cost during the season € 7,50 / h.
Underwater: Christ of the Abysses at a depth of 17 meters in the San Fruttuoso bay. Amazing!
With your dog: Required dogs on a leash. They are very welcome.
Disability: There is a lift in the parking measuring 82 cm. Arrive in Piazzetta is possible without too many issues. Floor sandstone.
Good to know: We have Newsstand, Pharmacy, Police, Post Office, Yacht Club, a Park, ATM, and Captaincy.
Toilets: They are in the square of parking on arrival. There are also at the end of Molo Umberto I. Pier at the right.
Emotional Thing: Arrive in Portofino by boat at the sunset. Absolutely!
St. George’s Bonfire: April 23rd. Emotional moment.
Parish: +39.0185.269337 – Mobile +39.333.217.9407 – [email protected]
When: From April to October each day. In winter only at the weekend. At Christmas – most of the shops are closed – but emotions are amazing!
Stay in The Loop
As for many other places in Liguria, it is impossible to indicate the origins of Portofino because they are lost in the most remote past. Also, the fact that the village archives were burnt by fanatics during the French Revolution makes its ancient history even more obscure. Portofino, however, rivals in antiquity with any other town on Ligurian soil. It is obvious to deduce that in ancient times the Tigulii Ligurians started to inhabit the land around the bay, probably enticed by what they could profit from the natural port as it was an easy shelter for ships of those times during storms. At that time the abundance of fish was also an attraction for the inhabitants of the gulf. As a matter of fact, as has already been mentioned, Plinius referred to «Portus Delphini» when he visited the Gulf of Tigullia. It is reasonable to believe that when Liguria was conquered by the Romans Portofino came under their government and then passed to the emperors of the Holy Roman Empire. It remained in their control until Saint Adelagia, empress and queen of Italy, came into power, and in 986 she gave it along with other lands to the Monastery of San Fruttuoso (abbey of the Benedictine monks built in a cove at the base of the Mount of Portofino).
Saint Adelagia was inspired to make such a precious gift for the soul of her consort, Otho the Great, and for the health of her son, Otho II, who our Lord had saved from a storm at sea due to the merits of the holiest Fruttuoso and the prayers of his fellow monks. Portofino remained under the Benedictine monks until the year 1171 when questions arose between them and the inhabitants and consuls of Portofino and Rapallo. A compromise was made by Ansaldo Doria, Rolando Marino, Elia Da Banca, and Armando, prior of San Fruttuoso, and on February 18th, 1171 a decree was issued in which the inhabitants of Portofino passed under the civil jurisdiction of the Rapallese consuls who had to pay the monastery 70 Genoese lire. In 1414 the French tyrannized Liguria under the protest of protecting it until the Genoese became tired of this and threw off the French yoke. Thus the French, seeing themselves obliged to abandon Liguria, sold various Ligurian castles, among which Portofino, to the Florentines. The Genoese asked the Florentines for an explanation of this abuse of power and, not being given a reason, declared war which came to a friendly end in the same year and Portofino was returned to the Genoese (Ammirato Scipione: Delle storie fiorentine).
In 1425 Tommaso of Campofregoso had to liberate Genoa from the rule of the Duke of Milan and attacked many holdings, including Portofino which he took possession of, under the Genoese Republic. But the Fregoso family held Portofino for only a few years and as Giustiniani writes in book IV of his annals, in 1430 it was recovered by the Genoese lead by Francesco Spinola, son of Ottobono. In fact, Andreolo Prato, owner of a part of Portofino and acting as its representative, swore fidelity to the Genoese Republic in the same year. (F. Federici: Scrutinio della nobilta ligustica). The republic added Portofino to the territory of Rapallo and included it in the so-called quarter of Pescino which comprised in 1642 the parishes of Santa Margherita, Corte, San Siro, Nozarego and Portofino (From the register of landed properties in the archives of the Genoese government). The republic ruled Portofino as a feudal estate and every year they sent a governor, chosen from a patrician family, there: this governor resided in the fortress on the peninsula and also commanded the garrison troops. There were only two of this type of government in Liguria, one at Portofino and the other at Ventimiglia: their administration was entrusted to four consuls (Summary of the Genoese history). This system of government only lasted for fourteen years, then Giovanni Antonio Fiesco, who was at war with the republic, occupied Portofino but after a short time, he surrendered it to the Genoese.
In 1459 the castle and port were seized by Pietro Fregoso, but soon after Giovanni Coscia or Cossa retook these two positions in the name of the Genoese Republic as pointed out in Giovanni Simonetta’s history of Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan. In this article, one can read, « Nevertheless at Genoa orders were issued to recover Portofino… moreover a fleet of ten galleys and two ships with Giovanni Coscia in command was prepared and along with the infantry they reconquered Portofino ». In 1513 the Adorno and Fieschi families, backed by the Duke of Milan and the Swiss, attempted to seize Genoa, declared war on the republic and took Portofino. In this situation, Genoa was in need of provisions and the doge, Antoniotto, and the elders of the city decided to reconquer Portofino in order to have a port from which supplies could reach Genoa. They entrusted this action to two thousand mercenaries and the same number of Genoese citizens. However, Andrea Doria, who had his galleys in the offing of Portofino, was advised of this action in time and he disembarked Filippino Doria and Giambattista Grimaldi at the command of eight hundred foot-soldiers. They joined up with Filippino Fieschi, who commanded the fortress, and attacked the army sent by the Genoese Republic (Varese: Storia Della Repubblica di Genova). The bravery of these «invincibile» defenders of Portofino lasted for a very short time because as Giustiniani says, «in headlong flight they had to abandon Portofino which was retaken by the Doge’s men». In the year 1527, Andrea Doria returned to the Gulf of Tigullia and after a long struggle, he took possession of Portofino and plundered the ships anchored in the port (A. Giustiniani: Annali di Genova). Portofino was taken possession of, surrendered and retaken by the French, English, Spanish or Austrians and this was its lot until 1815 when the Genoese Republic was ceded to the king of Sardinia by the Congress of Vienna.
Tourism in Portofino
As we already mentioned, Portofino has always been a fishing village with a seafaring population. If you need to reserve a hotel. About the middle of the XIX century, it started to become a mecca of the English who purchased the best positions of land and there built villas and restored castles with the maximum respect to the verdure and landscape. After World War I, and more precisely in the year 1924, some journalists and Italian writers began to illustrate the characteristic beauties of the area, bringing Portofino to light and also awakening in the Italians touring interests. It can well be said that the touristic fame of Portofino is due above all to the press. On this subject is to be remembered R. Calzini who in 1924 – 25 wrote about twenty articles in the newspaper, «Corriere della Sera», illustrating the beauties of this hamlet (on the wall before the little cemetery there is a plaque dedicated to this reporter).
A series of articles and entire books by Italian and foreign journalists and writers soon followed with the scope of making Portofino a tourist spot. This scope was fully reached in that starting in 1925 Italians and foreigners began to frequent Portofino, to make it fashionable and to buy the characteristic fishermen’s houses around the port, turning their interiors into original and luxurious residences. In 1935, on the initiative of Comm. Ettore Bocciardo has issued a law creating the local «Mount of Portofino Organization» whose purpose is to protect and defend Portofino (buildings and vegetation) from any alterations that private persons are inclined to make. The organization also supervises any decisions taken by the municipal building commission. In this manner, the antique aspect of the fishing village in the Italian Riviera has been kept almost intact. No vehicles of any kind are allowed to go into the square and nightclubs or entertainments that can disturb the peace are prohibited, thus creating that «angolo di paradiso » that is Portofino, appreciated throughout the entire world and mecca of tourists from all parts of the globe. Her regular clientele is of the first class. It can well be said that Portofino is world renown.
Today, Portofino is still a place known for international tourism and the jet-set lifestyle. The city is located in a small area – 2 kmq – making it rigorously pedestrian. It is often called the most beautiful «Piazzetta» in the world. It is a unique sort of salon en Plein air, filled with magic and charm. Within a few steps, you can visit famous ateliers and see some outstanding yachts at the marina decks – which hosts yachts from 8 meters up to 40. You may see fishermen organizing their nets and witness unforgettable sunsets of pastel colors on the bay. Many International fashion houses chose this amazing location as their home- included among them are Louis Vuitton, Dior, Gucci, Emilio Pucci and many more. You can find these boutiques in «Via Roma», the main street starts from the parking area and ends at the «Piazzetta» or on the two piers Molo Umberto I and Calata Marconi. If you need to schedule your visit, see the Portofino hotel page.
Besides Shopping at the Ateliers, you may choose to visit many local boutiques that sell handmade clothes and lace, cashmere garments, bikinis, and other local products. The artistic life is also remarkable, with painters and artists’ studios. Portofino’s watercolors are famous for representing the «Piazzetta», or glimpses of marine life. Portofino is oftentimes a theatrical location for ads and TV shows. Hollywood star Charlize Theron, known as one of the world’s most beautiful women, inaugurated this tradition in 1998 when she became a charming representative for Martini, a brand that’s strongly linked to our city. Throughout the years, television shows like Beautiful, the fashion show «Modamare a Portofino» and movies starring Humphrey Bogart and Ava Gardner, Gina Lollobrigida and Rock Hudson; even MasterChef has featured Portofino as a location. Many illustrious brands have shot their products in Portofino including Zegna, with the old sailing competition; Fiat, for their Cabriolet Car; Dolce & Gabbana for the Ads with Monica Bellucci and Dior with the amazing video with Jag Jagaciak. Alitalia named the Boeing 747-243B Portofino, with the abbreviation I-DEMF. More recently, people have been struck by a breathtaking performance of the amazing Andrea Bocelli in the «Piazzetta»: An emotional and unforgettable live concert! To end, on September 2017, Ferrari has made his debut with the new V8 Grand Turismo called Portofino.
Things to do in Portofino
First, download our APP for iPhone or Android. Inside, you’ll find everything you need to experience Portofino at its finest, whether for a few days or a few hours. You’ll find reviews on different locations: dining options, scenic hikes, what to see and where to meet people, how to move around, where to declare love, and more. Portofino Italy offers several places to visit. We suggest a walk on the pedestrian street that goes from the «Piazzetta» on the right up to the Castello Brown, an 1870 mansion that was the residence of English consul Sir Montague Brown. The place has a breathtaking panoramic view of the bay and the Gulf of Tigullio. Shortly before that, enjoy the Chiesa di San Giorgio, where you can admire the Golfo Paradiso all the way to Genova, at the right of the Promontory. If you want to keep going, through the lush vegetation you’ll reach the lighthouse. You’ll find yourself in an ancient location, in front of the «Mar Ligure» and its dolphins, whales, starfish and other protected animals in this area of the Mediterranean Sea.
In our APP, you can find several routes – we suggest bringing water and tennis shoes – that goes from the Portofino towards Genova until the San Fruttuoso bay. The latter is particularly interesting because of the landscape’s natural beauty and the opportunity to admire, 18 meters under the sea, the Christ of the Abyss. Moving towards Santa Margherita Ligure you’ll reach the Paraggi bay, which is famous for the unique emerald-green color of the water. You’ll find unpaved roads for hiking, free beaches and more suggestions inside the APP. Don’t you forget one of the most romantic celebrations: on the 23rd of April, every year, there is a bonfire at the «Piazzetta» to celebrate San Giorgio, the patron of the city.
Alright, now that you learned what means the symbol of Portofino and the Italian Riviera, download our iPhone App or Android App to live this hamlet like a charm and join our private group on Facebook: A World Apart. Do you want to know which Famous People have been there? Or do you need directions to come?
I Delfini di Portofino 🐬